May 14, 2000
True Cost of Instant Greenbelt
May soon exceed $1,000,000 Annually!
By Howard Hobbs, Ph.D.
Valley Press Media Network
Related Story: New
CLOVIS -- Monday night during the City Council's public
meeting, Mayor Armstrong publicly thanked fellow Council Members and community
volunteers for their tree planting activity last Saturday along the Old Town Trail.
That was the locale for the new urban forest on the Clovis horizon. He noted there
were no reporters from the Clovis Independent covering the Council meeting.
Armstrong also offered stinging criticism for members
of the press, however, as he excoriated both the Clovis Independent and
the Fresno Bee for "weak coverage" of the historic event. He said it was
newsworthy that 4,800 trees were planted by area residents and City employees
along several miles of the Clovis Old Town Trail and its Cross Town
Trail intersect near Woodward Park and River Park Center in Fresno.
A Clovis Free Press Newspaper reporter was
present at the Council meeting and the next morning attempted to get the Mayor's
comments. It was 7:20 a.m. when the Free Press reporter approached Armstrong,
showed him Press credentials and asked for comments on Cotton Wood Park expansion.
Armstrong turned and walked away without comment.
Free Press Newspaper editors had done their research
even if the Mayor of Clovis had nothing to say. Urban forestry research revealed
there are nearly a million trees being protected in the Urban & Community Forestry
projects from rapid urbanization and subdivision development in California. The
Free Press also tapped into a large database of economics research on the cost-benefit
of such urban forests as Mayor Armstrong and a host of volunteers planted along
the corridors of the Clovis Old Town urban perimeter.
Urban and community forestry is a relatively new
activity. The California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection is now partnering
with local communities like Tree People for volunteer urban forestry services.
But many recent cost-benefit studies have illuminated to true nature of the major
fiscal obligation associated with maintaining them after the planting ceremony
is over and the news media have left town.
The City of Modesto, Calif., manages 90,000 trees
along its streets and in its parks. Officials in its Operations and Maintenance
Dept. told Free Press reporters the public's investment in stewardship of that
municipal urban forest greatly benefits the community. With a population roughly
three times that of Clovis, Modesto recognizes the economic impact of its urban
forest. The city's growth is greatly influenced by environmental constraints,
and competition with other cities in the region in terms of quality of life
Research shows what Mayor Armstrong and the Clovis
City Council already know -- that healthy City trees can mitigate impacts of development
on air-quality. As in Clovis, Modesto's street, park, and trail trees are associated
with a sense of place and foster psychological well-being. Increased community
attractiveness and out-of-doors recreational opportunities make the City a more
enjoyable place to work and to play. So, Clovis' new urban forest adds to a setting
which helps attract new high-tech businesses and new residents. Improving the
facilities at the Cottonwood Park along Dry Creek Trail will further expand the
size and obligation to maintain the new Clovis urban forest. On Tuesday morning
nearly 400 supporters made around $6,000 in cash donations in support of more
trees and more Cottonwood Park.
Yet, this is an era of dwindling public funds and
rising expenditures. Because of this, there is even a greater need for public
scrutiny of local government spending tax funds, especially on a long term commitment
like planting and management of the new Clovis urban forest, portions of which
have been garnered through a combination of public charitable activities which
place in motion a virtual municipal engine of never-ending public expense.
This trend and others now anticipated attract the
attention of the Free Press and become the focus of this newspaper's editorial
calendar in order to focus on in-depth analysis that is likely to lead to more
fully informed judgments on the true economic costs and benefits of actions taken
by the public body.
[ Editor's Note: The courageous Clovis Tribune
-- The Official newspaper of the City of Clovis & North Fresno County was
founded by H.E. Armstrong & Sons, March 14, 1905, and was superseded by the Clovis
Independent, now owned and operated by McClatchy and the Fresno Bee.
The City of Modesto found that the true cost to taxpayers of the City maintaining
its 91,179 urban forest last year was $2,623,384. The City Council, however, then
announced that the accrued benefits of the urban forest to the community were
well worth the expense to taxpayers. Anyway, since the urban forest had become
a popular amenity, and was apparently one of the inducements to new business to
relocate to Modesto, the City Council will keep on spending $2,000,000 every year
to keep up its appearance. In the past year, Modesto City Council approved $267,000
for planting 2000 new trees, $90,000 for pruning, watering and basin repairs,
$13,000 for Plant Nursery operations, $343,000 for removal of 1,300 dying and
dead trees, $5,000 for storm cleanup costs, $85,000 for sidewalk repairs from
tree root damage, $68,000 for tree pest management, $106,426 for tree leaf raking
and disposal, $26,000 property claims from falling trees/branches sewer line disturbance,
$42,000 trip/fall personal injury claims, $68,000 injury claims expenses. City
of Modesto fiscal detail -- Journal of Arboriculture 25(5):235-248. 1999.]
Letter to the Editor
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